Earlier this year, I hosted my first live event to mark the launch of my first book, Unmasking the Strong Black Woman. Working at a full-time job and being the mother of an infant, I wasn’t sure if I would have the time or the resources to put together anything interesting. Eventually, not only did it turn out to be well attended, but I also made a profit of $1,000 by the end of the day!
How to Plan an Event: Where to Start?
Start with a manageable vision.
If you’re hosting your first event, start small. Aim for a small number of attendees, each paying a small fee. I set my goal at having a two-hour event with 50 guests attending at $25 per person. I included one of my financial self-care workshops and an autographed copy of my book in the ticket price.
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Place your event in a larger context.
I planned the launch of Unmasking the Strong Black Woman for March, which is Women’s History Month. Linking your event to a larger social issue or a current event will make it more relevant to potential attendees and more appealing to the local press.
Set the date of the event early.
I gave myself six months of planning time. Since curating an event (even a small one) requires managing several moving parts, give yourself more time to take care of business at a slower pace. This will help to keep your nerves calm.
Streamline your calendar.
I’ve seen “solopreneurs” attempt to launch several big initiatives simultaneously. The results have been lackluster. Many had to cancel their events at the last minute or deeply discount the tickets to ensure that the seats would be filled.If you have big dreams for your brand, consider having one or two large events every year so you can establish more predictable revenue streams.
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Seek a low-cost venue.
For my first event, I approached a local bookstore owner. We agreed to share the profits from the books sold at the event. Depending on the nature of your event, you may also consider affordable spaces at community centers, universities, or even restaurants during their off hours.
Build a team.
To successfully execute a live event, you’re going to need help. I worked with my social media manager on a marketing plan that included social media posts across Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter; email blasts to my subscribers, as well as friends and family; and blog posts and podcasts around the topic.
Selling Tickets and Making Money
To simplify the ticket sales process, I opted to use Eventbrite. This event planning software allows you to upload your marketing collateral and collect your payments in one place. But keep in mind that it comes with a fee.
Now comes the most important part of the event — the financial strategy. Here are a few pointers:
Consider how much you want to make.
I wanted to earn at least a $1,000 from my event. So I ran the numbers. After paying fees, commissions, and the cost of social media work, I needed to gross $1,250 to walk away with $1,000 in profit. So I planned to sell 50 tickets at $25 each.
Offer discounts and think about the up-sell.
In addition to early bird specials, I combined the offer with an “early bird bring a friend” discount to make a more attractive sales pitch.
I also offered to interested participants one-on-one coaching sessions later. You can include other up-sells, such as journals, planners, or branded T-shirts.
Get email addresses.
If you don’t have an immediate up-sell available at your event, don’t stress. Think about the long game and ask for the attendees' email addresses.
If the attendees are on your email list, you’ll be able to nurture long-term and rewarding relationships with them in the future.
As a personal finance expert, I work with many women who face money challenges. I wanted them to attend my event, but I knew it would be tough for them to find the cash to pay.
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I found two sponsors to buy group tickets so these women could attend for free. Sponsorship created goodwill for their businesses while helping me meet my financial goals. It’s a win-win-win partnership.
Pull in favors.
I had a network of friends that I could call on to do favors for me. For instance, one of my girlfriends served as the official Frugal Feminista greeter, while another took care of social media.
Event Planning: Learn From Your Experience
It’s been more than six months since I successfully hosted my first live event. In hindsight, there are some things that I could have done differently. But it was a good start. If you start small and fully execute your vision for the first event that you plan, the path to bigger and better events in the future will be smoother.